BIG RAPIDS, Mich.—Wolverine Worldwide has broken ground on a 16,000-sq.-ft. expansion at its Big Rapids plant, both to meet demand from its military footwear contracts and expand Wolverine's presence in Michigan, according to the company.
The expansion, which adds a raw materials receiving warehouse to Wolverine's Big Rapids complex, will increase the size of the plant to about 96,000 square feet, Wolverine said. It also will add about 20 jobs to the operation, for a total of more than 600 employees at Big Rapids, the company said.
Michigan Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-2nd District, and John Moolenaar, R-4th District, joined Blake W. Krueger, Wolverine Worldwide chairman, president and CEO, at the groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 12.
Wolverine said it expects to complete the addition by early 2017. The expansion was made in response to both current and anticipated demand, a company spokesman said.
“The plant was built in 1964, and it's absolutely jammed with employees,” he said. “We needed to spread out production lines and add new equipment.”
Business has been booming at the Big Rapids factory, with the company adding more than 250 employees in the past year alone, the spokesman said.
Wolverine won a number of new military contracts in 2016, from both the U.S. Department of Defense and the Afghan army, he said. These include a five-year, $30.5 million contract from the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency for Wolverine's Bates Footwear division to manufacture Temperate Weather boots for the U.S. Marine Corps.
The National Defense Authorization Act, which provides funding to DOD for fiscal year 2017, includes a provision for domestic production of athletic footwear for military training purposes, the spokesman said. That bill is expected to come up for a vote soon after the Nov. 8 election, and Saucony, another Wolverine brand, would produce that footwear in Big Rapids, he said.
Asked about future expansion plans, the spokesman said Wolverine is committed to domestic manufacturing.
“Future expansion will depend on the growth of demand,” he said.
Just after the groundbreaking, on Oct. 18, Wolverine Worldwide said it had third quarter net earnings of $48.2 million on revenues of $603.7 million.
This compared with third quarter 2015 results of $45.8 million in earnings on sales of $678.9 million, according to the company. The 11.1 percent reduction in revenues was in line with what the firm anticipated, it said.
“We delivered strong earnings on revenue in line with our expectations for the third quarter, despite the tepid retail environment,” Krueger said in a statement. “Importantly, we also continued to make excellent progress in strengthening our product innovation pipeline with an intense focus on our consumers.”